You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Abortion laws an 'indictment', MPs told

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/03/2017
The Beehive at Parliament. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images The Beehive at Parliament.

Language used in existing abortion legislation is offensive and an indictment on New Zealand, the committee that advises the government on abortion has told MPs.

People categorised as mentally deficient are called "subnormal" while other language used is sexist, Abortion Supervisory Committee chairwoman Linda Holloway told an annual review of the committee on Thursday.

Abortion legislation is currently contained in the Crimes Act and hasn't been updated in more than 40 years.

The Abortion Advisory Committee has called for a modernisation of the laws, including removing the procedure from the criminal law, which technically makes it illegal.

But the call has been met with mixed reactions.

Dame Linda told parliament's justice and electoral select committee that an overhaul was in order.

"Some parts of the legislation I actually find quite offensive - referring to people as subnormal, for example," she said, according to the NZ Herald.

"Really it is an indictment that we have statutes like that on the books that is not being corrected."

But abortion law reform is not a priority for the government now, according to Prime Minister Bill English.

And if amendment legislation was to come before parliament he would not support it.

While Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who described himself as pro-choice agrees now isn't the time, caucus colleague Chris Bishop disagrees and believes changes are needed.

Act leader David Seymour said on Tuesday if he hadn't already put euthanasia legislation in the members' bill ballot he would seek to introduce abortion reform.

"The right thing to do is to reform abortion law to reflect what actually happens: women exercise choice for their own reasons," he said, referring to the current requirement that two doctors agree the pregnancy would endanger the woman's physical or mental health.

Labour MP Kris Faafoi believes amendments would have the numbers to pass parliament.

"I think if a member's bill was pulled out of the ballot it would get pretty close to passing. I think there is enough advocacy on this issue now and it's obviously getting a bit of traction now that gives weight to those kinds of things," he told TVNZ on Wednesday.

Party leader Andrew Little also backs updating the four-decade old legislation but has not committed to introducing reforms if he becomes prime minister in September.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon